Parallel Paths: Mandatory Counseling and the Best Advice I Ever Got

The journey to becoming a single mother has included a number of appointments, setbacks, and endless decisions for Karen, but the best advice has yet to come from her mandatory fertility counsellor.

Karen Fuss: Parallel Paths

Counseling is Mandatory

As part of my list of to-do’s from Doctor C is the request to make an appointment to see a counsellor. And it isn’t really a request, it’s more like a commandment but, interestingly, not from Doctor C. This is a mandatory step stipulated by the Ontario Government. You must prove that you had at least one visit with a counsellor if you choose to use a donor or anything to have a baby. If you don’t do it, your doctor will probably not allow you to proceed.

And there is not a list of preferred therapists to choose from or a recommendation from a doctor like it works with private counselling. In my case, there is only one and you pay for the visit.

Meeting My Counsellor

I book an appointment with Sharon (this is not her real name) having no idea what to expect. I wonder what she will want to know about me. Do I come from a stable background? Do I love my parents? How deep and “psychological” will she go on me?

Her office is located in the same building but a different floor of my soon-to-be fertility clinic. And if you’re wondering how I got to a fertility clinic, once again I did not choose it either. It is your fertility specialist who determines the clinic depending on where he or she has their practice. There are private ones or ones like mine which are more of a group thing where several doctors are affiliated with the specific clinic. Oh and by the way, if you are curious to know where my fertility clinic is located—yes, that’s correct, it’s in the downtown fertility corridor, as I call it. But all of this is perhaps a another topic for another day.

I walk into her tiny office space and see a pleasant-looking woman with long dark hair probably around my age or perhaps younger. She does not appear all clinical-like or intimidating in anyway. In fact, Sharon is warm and compassionate. She wants to help.

She gets up immediately to greet me.

“Hi, I’m Sharon. Do you know why you are here today?”

“No, not really. I was told to book this session with you by my doctor.”

“Let me explain why you are having this visit with me. Doctors are very good at taking care of the medical issues of having a baby but not the emotional ones. I deal with the emotional stuff. It has been found that many couples or single people like you went through this process and were completely unprepared for the emotional realities of having a child using a donor. Therefore, the Government of Ontario stepped in and made it now mandatory to be assessed and ensure that parents understand what to expect and the implications of their decision.”


A Surprising Source of Advice and Perspective

She continues to talk. It turns out that Sharon has her own story that makes this job very personal for her:

“Just so you know a bit about my background, I have two teenage boys, 17 and 18 years old, who were both conceived by donor sperm because as it turned out, my husband was infertile. At the time there was very little information or support. I am the first counsellor to be on staff full-time with your fertility clinic to better prepare and support parents who are going through this process.”

“This is helpful as I don’t know anything.”

And then the conversation gets interesting:

“Have you thought about what you want the father of your baby to look like? For example, what colour skin, hair, or eyes you would like him to have?”

I’m taken aback and give the politically correct answer: “Ummm, I just want him to be healthy and smart? What else would anyone want?”

“Actually that is not true. I’ll give you an example. I had a married couple once who came to see me and the husband had the fertility issue. He was a blue collar worker and wanted to have a child that was like him and at his education level. He didn’t want a donor who was super smart.”

I am looking at her a bit stunned by the turn of the conversation. Sharon explains further:

“Well let me give you some perspective. You have to look at it from the child’s point of view. In order of complication, the least complicated is when you have two parents who are married but then have to explain to their child that they have a mother and a father but only one biological parent. Then you have the situation where there could be two mothers or two fathers and have to explain why they have two of the same parents and only one biological parent. It gets more complicated.  In your scenario, you will need to explain to the child why they do not have a father at all. If the child looks different from you, say a different skin colour, this is just another layer of complexity for the child. They will not only have to understand why they do not have a father but also why they don’t look like their mother either.”

All that I am thinking is wow. Not in a million years did I think of it in those terms—not that I had thought about any of this at all.

But Sharon doesn’t stop there. She has a lot more to say and all I can say is it blew my mind away.


* * * * *

What do you think about this counsellor’s perspective and advice to Karen? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.


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